Aviation survey: Growth is months off

Wichita's aircraft industry is close to hitting bottom, but sales growth is six to nine months away and regaining 2008 employment levels will take five more years, according to a recent survey of five local aviation companies.

That reflects the industry's traditional lag behind the national and international economies, said Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.

The center surveyed the companies to see how their financial outlook compared to the broad national outlook of the National Association of Business Economics, a group of corporate economists from a wide variety of industries.

The result, Hill said, is that the two are similar with one exception — the aircraft industry takes longer than the nation to recover.

NABE is becoming increasingly optimistic about the U.S. economy, calling for 3.2 percent growth and more hiring.

The Wichita aircraft companies said they expected the recession to hit bottom in the first quarter of 2011 and for growth to start then.

The result, they said, is that with a few exceptions they don't expect to any hiring in 2010.

The Wichita companies said that high employment and falling income nationally were doing the most to hurt aircraft demand, followed by uncertainty about future conditions and tight credit.

"Overall aviation was very similar to the national outlook, with the exception that it takes longer to recover," Hill said.

Some of the Wichita companies said they are building inventory for coming growth, while others said they are trying to cut inventory because they expect weaker future sales.

The good news is that the aircraft companies said their input costs were either stable or declining, aiding profits.